Photo Credit: Preston Burch I The Greer Citizen
Changes could soon be coming to Greer Relief’s Victoria Street location.
Out of city-owned building
Greer Relief and Resource Agency could soon be relocating.
The nonprofit has been considering finding a location with more space, and the city-owned property it currently occupies on Victoria Street on is now prime real estate.
“We’re having some substantial issue with the roof of that property,” said City Administrator Ed Driggers during last week’s council planning retreat.
“We’re at that point that the roof needs to be completely taken off and a new roof installed,” he said. “We’ve added layers of roof over a number of years. It’s likely we may be able to patch a little more, but we’re getting close to that replacement, which is probably going to be in the $250,000-$300,000 range to do a replacement on that roof.”
Driggers recently met with Greer Relief Executive Director Caroline Robertson, who has been contemplating a new location for some time now.
“We are aware of the roof situation,” Robertson said. “We’re trying to also determine what is best for that.
“In no way do we want the city to be at any kind of burdened situation with a facility that may or may not be worth that type of investment. We’re in a position where they are interested, and we are also similarly interested in sitting down to talk and figure out what that means. They have patched us up as best as possible at this point in time.”
The city currently allocates $30,000 annually to Greer Relief, having stopped paying the nonprofit’s utility bills two years ago.
“We’ve supported Greer Relief since its inception, and we continue to support Greer Relief,” Driggers said. “We own a piece of property at a very desired location. It’s adjacent to where we’ve made an investment in the parking area beside that.”
Robertson will be bringing her annual report to council at the end of April.
“We are on the same page as far as evaluating how that space is used,” Driggers said. “I do think there is going to be a day, probably sooner than later, that someone is going to come forward and say, we can’t patch it anymore.
“I would prefer under any circumstance not to have that type of relationship with an outside agency,” he said. “I would much rather have an arm’s length relationship, give them dollars as a contribution to help them operate and function in our community, but us having responsibility for a building that we don’t have people in; we don’t get to manage how it’s used….It doesn’t make sense for us to have responsibility for paying your utility bills, and you have no incentive to turn the thermostat down at the end of the day.”
Councilmember Kimberly Bookert asked how these organizations end up with these agreements.
“I think (Sen. J.) Verne (Smith) gifted us the building along with the agency,” said Mayor Rick Danner.
“We understand it’s a good organization; they do good work. To Ed’s point, I don’t know that that’s the best place for them to be for what they do and who they serve; for the most part, it works for them.”
While there is no true lease agreement with a deadline, the agreement in place states that the city will provide the facility and Greer Relief will provide the programming.
“What we didn’t do at the time nor have we done subsequently is said what happens at the end of some term,” Driggers said.
“We’ve been very supporting because it brings services to our community that we may otherwise not have,” he said.
“That’s the good old boy system right there,” said Council Member Jay Arrowood.
“Maybe that support is different in the future than it is now if they were to be somewhere else,” Driggers said.
Council Member Lee Dumas asked how the property would be used if Greer Relief moved.
“I would imagine it’s a valuable piece of property,” Driggers said.
“If I had to look at a crystal ball, I would certainly say to you, down the road, it’s probably more likely that that’s a property that we would have acquired for resale or use,” he said. “When we see that opportunity coming, then we may need to have discussions about what responsibility we have in helping them (Greer Relief) get to the next step.”
In 2001, the city offered Greer Community Ministries and Greer Relief their respective buildings for $1 each.
“Our position was that we didn’t want to be in the real estate business,” Driggers said. “Greer Community Ministries accepted the offer in 2001; Greer Relief opted not to, and their position was financial ability, no resources to run a building.”
Greer Development Corporation Executive Director Reno Deaton shared about opportunity zones, which allow investors to divert capital gains taxes to a fund for investments, which would be received back tax free.
“There’s a huge, huge incentive for these high network folks to be putting their money into these funds that are designed to invest in these particular geographic areas,” Deaton said.
Greer has two opportunity zones: one near BMW and GSP and the other in downtown.
“Our downtown opportunity zone includes all of Trade Street, the Greer Mill, the southern side of Poinsett Street and maybe more importantly, Greer Relief,” Deaton said. “Greer Relief is about one and a half acres in the middle of our downtown right in the heart of everything that is going on and smack dab in the middle of our opportunity zone.”
“Typically, we talk about having projects and going out and trying to find resources to fund those projects,” he said. “Now, we’ve got a bunch of resources out there in the world, people who are high network folks, who have put their dollars in opportunity funds, that have a finite window in which to deploy those funds….If there ever was a time when you were contemplating, is Greer Relief better off served being somewhere else, now is the time to encourage that….In my opinion, with all that’s happening downtown, there’s no better site out there to attract those kind of funds.”
Deaton recommended city council to obtain professional help in targeting investors for the site.
“Since I’ve been there, it’s been my goal for us not to be in that location,” Robertson said. “Brian Martin and I actively, for about four years, were trying to access and determine what relocation could look like. The recession was not on our side, so we suspended that method, but it’s been there; it’s still been on our strategic plan.”
Every board retreat includes discussions about relocation, and the current strategic plan includes the idea.
“We were ramping up in discussions with our board executive leadership,” Robertson said. “We had also been hoping to sit down with Ed when he approached me to say, I’d love to sit down with yourself and executive leadership.
We would like to do the same thing as well.”
“We’re all circling the same interest,” she said. “We’re coming together on that.”
When asked about pros and cons of staying and leaving, Robertson shared the following.
“We’re at a great location for the need because people can access us,” Robertson said. “A good solid third of people we serve get to us on their own two legs.”
“They’re walking,” she said. “You can sit at Greer Relief and see the people walking up and down the street, getting to us. Being downtown and where we are has that advantage.”
Nevertheless, Robertson is looking at options for a coming relocation to a different site.
“There’s some sites that we have identified that are potentially advantageous because it’s near other organizations that are like us that the people that we’re serving also need to access,” Robertson said. “It would have similarly beneficial resources.”
“It’s tight,” she said. “There’s other things already over there. It limits us. It would be a further walk. It would be a further access point.”
Robertson said there are a lot of assessments to be done before making a decision.
“There’s a lot of things we’ve got to assess and a lot of things we’ve got to determine before we get to that place, and we have not assessed those points in quite some time,” Robertson said.
Robertson is currently sitting down with funders to determine the availability of funds to help with researching how their current clients would access Greer Relief at a new location.
“We want to make sure we get a good, clean assessment,” Robertson said. “Our goal is to keep the agencies and the building in tact, not the physical building but the organizations that are within the space.”
“We really want to keep the same work that Sen. Smith had started,” she said. “We just basically want to pick it up and just put it in a different place. We don’t want to upset the cart; we want to make sure that the concept is still there, bringing the services to the people because they have no way to get to county seat, Greenville and Spartanburg, to access DSS, to access DHEC, to get to those organizations that they so desperately need. There’s no transportation for them to get there, so those are still very important to keep those agencies here in Greer. We really, really want to keep the space as cost effective for them to make it a point to still stay here in Greer.”
Robertson also shared her thoughts on occupying a city-owned building.
“We would love to be the own makers of our future and be independent and not necessarily live in the city’s building, but we are not currently in a position where we would be able to just purchase a half million or plus dollar building,” Robertson said. “We’re not an organization that has those types of funds, so it would take a lot to get there.”
“We’re at the point right now where we’re still renovating a space within the center and just finished renovating some bathrooms,” she said. “We’re not moving any time soon, let’s just say, but we know that our time there is coming to a close.”
Robertson considers the relationship with the city to be strong moving forward.
“The city is very much on our side when it comes to partnering and trying to help us and being good stewards with the resources that the citizens of Greer has helped them to have and is really trying to help the citizens have access to resources,” Robertson said.
“The partnership that’s there is very strong and very healthy,” she said. “They are sitting at the table with us. That’s very good for us; that’s very good for the citizens.”
Greer Relief will also be welcoming a new tenant in the next couple of weeks with SC Works moving back to Greer.
“They will be doing job readiness,” Robertson said. “This is the side (of unemployment) that helps you bounce back.”
“I’m very excited about that and how fast that happened,” she said. “They will be moving in this month and starting services.”
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